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Importance of monitoring blood pressure

Hypertension or high blood pressure is extremely common affecting more than a quarter of the adult population and over the age of 60 years this figure rises to over 60 percent. The three most debilitating consequences of cardiovascular disease are stroke, heart attack and heart failure and the single most important risk factor for these conditions is high blood pressure. Over 7.5 million people are currently treated for high blood pressure in the UK, and it is estimated that another 8 million are undiagnosed. Each year in the USA, CVD contributes more than 500,000 strokes and 1.25 million coronary events. The effective lowering of blood pressure has been shown to reduce heart attack and stroke by around 40 per cent. It has been shown moreover that effective lowering of blood pressure can be extended from specialist centres to primary care.

However, the treatment of hypertension has been shown to be far from adequate with the rule of halves being as real today as when it was when it was first enunciated in the last century - half of patients with hypertension are not diagnosed, half or those who are diagnosed are untreated and half of those who are treated are treated inadequately. Indeed the rule of halves can now be extended with the evidence from a large number of clinical trials showing that if blood pressure is reduced to optimal levels with antihypertensive drugs the occurrence of stroke and heart attacks can be halved. There is, therefore, an imperative to diagnose and treat hypertension effectively and rapidly.